Blanket forts come in all shapes and sizes

And this weekend, mine came in the form of approximately 9 hours (out of 36) driving a car, 5 hrs at a wool festival and 36 hours in the company of some really wonderful women.

My weekend compatriots

We've all had times when we've felt like running away, as fast and as far as our little feet will carry us (in my case, not very fast and, two weeks post-marathon, not very far, but you get the idea). Over the last few weeks I've found myself envisioning just saying fuck it and packing up my kids and my husband and my dog and running off to live in the woods. And come Saturday afternoon when Wonderful Woman #1 and Wonderful Woman #2 showed up at my house to pack into the car and head west to Malvern, Wonderful Woman #3 and Wonderwool Wales*, my sigh of relief was probably heard in Bangkok. I needed to head out, not think about Real Life (TM) and have some down time, preferably with wool and one or two adult beverages of various stripes.

Still life with Lager and SweetGeorgia Superwash DK

Saturday night was spent in an extended SnB, complete with Thai food, prosecco and chocolate with sea salt. There was discussion of knitting and spinning and designing, about various and sundry life things, about whether or not it is possible in an intellectually honest way to be atheist**, about boys and kids and grandkids and the future. All those wonderful wide ranging topics that get covered when you are together with some opinionated, smart people who are willing to discuss and listen.

Which one is Gaga?

Sunday morning we rousted ourselves, managed to produce reasonable coffee with a tea pot and tea strainer, and headed off to Builth Wells for what I think (with apologies to Unravel) is my favorite festival yet. Wonderwool Wales this year was bigger and better then ever, and (by virtue of going on Sunday) relatively uncrowded. I had a wonderful time wandering around, actually buying things on the spur of the moment (8 skeins of Blacker Yarns Jacob DK, I'm looking at you) (and fantasizing about the fantabulous sweater you are going to become), chatting with folks, salivating over fleece and drum carders and all manner of other things. It was blissful. And then we got in the car and headed back to London, talking about designing adn dyeing and collaborations and What The Industry Should Do. I suddenly realised that I was feeling the same way I feel after scientific conferences: inspired and excited and full of ideas and plans and things that must be started immediately! It's a wonderful feeling, one that I've been missing, and it was such a joy to sit there, speeding down the M4, knowing that the three people knitting around me were in the same place.

The haul: ChiaoGoo Twist complete set (because I am weak, weak, weak...), two skeins of BFL/alpaca laceweight from Eden Cottage Yarns, a boat shuttle/pirns from The Threshing Barn, one skein of self-stripin Ullcentrum 2-ply from Midwinter Yarns (who I believe started trading on Saturday. Way to jump in to the deep end guys!), and 8 (!) skeins of DK weight, woolen spun Jacob from Blacker Yarns, slated to become the most glorious cozy warm sweater ever.

So for that, I'd like to thank Allison, Catherine and Dani for listening to me, encouraging me, and inspiring me with all that they do. It was an absolutely phenomenal 36 hours, and I can't wait to do it again.

*There's a lot of wonder in this sentence. My apologies.
** We finally agreed on "Intellectual agnostic, emotional atheist". And giggled. Repeatedly. (That might have been the wine, except we were still giggling the next day).

The cure for grumpy pants

I've been in a crappy mood all week. Grouchy, out of sorts, irritated by everyone and everything around. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm pretty much ready to be done with it...

I think I've found a solution to my mood, though, and it involves wool (big surprise, right?) Lots and lots of wool.
Hello Yarn Fiber Club Shetland, colorway "Dark and Stormy", June 2013 offering
Spun singles on Lendrum, 15:1 ratio
Plied (3-plied) on miniSpinner

WPI: 8-10, so somewhere around aran/worsted weight.
Grist: still needs to finish drying, so check back later
Yardage: 1100 yds total.

This comes out at heavy worsted weight according to wpi, but it feels bulkier to me. I pulled out all the fiber I had and tore each length in half, and then each piece into fourths and mixed them all up randomly before spinning. I spun the singles woolen, using a long backwards draw, to get fluffy, airy singles. The yarn is super light and cozy - I can't wait to knit it up! I'm thinking this is going to be a sweater with deep ribbing at the hem and cuffs, a loose fit and cables around a turtleneck or cowl. Kind of like this sweater that Allison pointed out to me this week, only my own design because I don't have the pattern.

So my cure for the grumpies is Shetland wool. At least this week - next week it will probably be merino and silk...

Rocking Kitchen Retreat: a stash-enhancement photo essay

So this past weekend, I headed up to West Yorkshire to spend some quality time with fellow knitwear designers at the first ever Rocking Kitchen Retreat, run by Joeli of Joeli's Kitchen, and Ruth of rock+purl. It was a great opportunity to meet a bunch of other UK designers, and swap ideas and tips and stories in a vast house for two days.

Ruth has been teasing us all on Twitter with 140 character hints about what was going to be in the goody bags, and the most recent vast box of yarn that had arrived at her studio. On Friday, we finally got to see the goods, as it were.
All of this yarn was crammed into a not-very-large bag. Along with the shade cards,
(that's not all of them), and a couple of books, and some needles and notions and OMG it was totally wicked!!!!

That was only the beginning. On Saturday, our hostesses pulled out a vast box of other yarn for people to dive into, plus some totally glorious taster skeins that were available for swatching. So, I swatched:

Yarns from Cascade, Lorna's Laces, Blacker Yarns and The Island Wool Company.

This is the final haul I brought home, after all was said and done. I'd like to be able to give you an actual yardage count, but I haven't yet found time to sit down and figure it out - it's gonna be a big number though! It was a fantastic weekend with a great group of people, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some fellow designers! You can sign up for the Rocking Kitchen newsletter here, and that will keep you in the loop on any future goings on.

Without any further ado, here is the great and grand list of sponsors for the weekend - many thanks to all of them for their generosity and excitement about working with independent designers!
Terri Shea ( 
West Yorkshire Spinners
Kettle Yarn Co
Cashmered UK
Cascade Yarns
Dirty Water Dye Works
Malabrigo Yarn
Artesano Yarns
Wooly Knit
Hiya Hiya
Island Wool Company
Lorna's Laces
Little Giddings Farm
Blacker Yarns
Designer Yarns
TB Ramsden

Before the crawl

Saturday is the first inaugural Great London Yarn Crawl, and I've been busy finalizing last details and pulling together door prizes. Since I'm not going to have a chance to do much yarn buying of my own on the day, I've been doing my best to make up for it.

When I got some more Spud & Chloe Sweater last week, I slipped on the way to the till and came up with 2 skeins of Fyberspates Scrumptious laceweight.
Fyberspates lace (1)
This is going to become a crocheted (!) cardigan somewhere down the line.

Then, this weekend, I got in to serious trouble over at Kettle Yarn Co. On Sunday, Linda handed me a lovely wrapped package with the following goodies.
Kettle Yarn Co Aran
Baby Alpaca/Merino/Bamboo Aran weight. This is going to become an Amor Deliria hat for the public release of the pattern next month.
Kettle Yarn Co alpaca-merino-nylon (1)
Alpaca/Merino/Nylon sport weight. Not sure what this will become, but it's amazingly soft.
Kettle Yarn Co falkland-tencel
Falkland/Tencel fingering weight for a shawlette design.

So gorgeous and soft and squishy. I can't wait to crack into these!

Mother-enabled stash enhancement

My mom knits. Kind of. She likes to get some yarn and start up on a project, or plan for a project, but then she tends to run out of steam. I arrived in Maine to find her eager to get rid of some stash that she had acquired by wasn't going to use any time soon. She used to live around the corner from Windsor Button, which recently closed down, so she had a bunch of yarn that she'd picked up from their going out of business sale.

Noro Kochoran,
Noro Kochoran
and Ella Rae Lace Merino - this is going to become a sweater for the purchaser.
Ella Rae Merino Lace (1)

She also had a couple of cones of mystery yarn lying around that she donated to the Cause of Enhancing My Daughter's Yarn Collection.
Coned acrylic (2)
These have since been determined to be acrylic (hello melting burn test results!), but I plan to weave a table runner or something with them for her.

So herein ends the stash enhancement portion of the US visit. I'm going to ignore the fact that I am glossing over the pound and a half of Hello Yarn fiber that I had sent here so I could save on postage because really, there's no reason to over do it. But the new possibilities are very enticing - it's going to be a fun autumn!